Childhood obesity and dental health

  • 33,000 young people have hospital teeth extractions

  • Childhood Obesity Strategy and oral health

  • Cut down on sugary drinks

More than 33,000 young people have to get rotten teeth removed every year in hospital, yet this is entirely preventable.

A proper diet and a watchful parental eye on junk food could make all the difference to the thousands of children who erode their teeth with too much sugar.

At North Street Dental and Implant Clinic we love to care for kids’ teeth. For us as practitioners, there’s something hugely gratifying about overseeing the oral health of toddlers and watching them become teenagers and young adults.

It’s a journey that most dentists will embrace eagerly.

Recently, there were headlines in the Press about the soaring numbers of children who are overweight and the Government’s response to dealing with the problem.

You may ask how it affects us as dentists and what specific interest we have in the measures put in place to get our youngsters healthier.

Let’s recap . . . 33,000 young people a year getting teeth removed in a hospital clearance procedure. Why? Too much sugar in drinks and food eroding enamel and setting up decay and gum disease.

Childhood obesity and dental health

Childhood obesity and dental health

General anaesthesia for hospital teeth extractions

That’s an awful lot of teeth and a vast NHS bill. Hospital extractions also require general anaesthesia, adding to the cost. Read our earlier blog post about the huge cost of children’s rotten teeth to the NHS.

And then there are the long-term issues of children growing up without their native teeth.

The government promised “draconian” action to ensure the figure of a third of children now overweight by their 11th birthday would be reduced.

Just about every dentist and dental health hygienist expected a significant purge on sugar-laden drinks and foods loaded with the dreaded sweet stuff.

Not to mention . . . We also expected a big purge on junk food, perhaps by reigning in the advertising.

chocolate bars

Childhood Obesity Strategy ‘watered down’

But it never happened. The actions we expected that we hoped would see fewer problems with youngsters arriving in our surgeries never materialised.

Instead of this expected comprehensive strategy, we were presented with just two things – reducing sugar consumption and increasing physical activity.

There was not a word on advertising or price promotion. And instead of something “draconian”, the focus was on voluntary action – apart from the sugar tax, which had already been announced.

Following the unveiling of this Childhood Obesity Strategy leading oral health charity, the Oral Health Foundation described it as an absolute disaster which will lead to another lost generation of children experiencing entirely unnecessary oral health problems.

The charity was supported in their disappointment by the British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy (BSDHT), which labelled the strategy as a substantial backwards step in addressing the UK’s children’s oral health crisis.

Indeed, the final Childhood Obesity Strategy appears to have been significantly watered down after omitting what was previously regarded as necessary regulations to make a tangible difference to children’s health in Britain.

child brushing teeth

Brush your teeth twice a day

The most glaring omissions included a blanket ban on junk food advertising during family TV shows and a ban on firms using cartoon characters in advertising.

The strategy has also excluded an expected clampdown on multi-buy promotions for unhealthy food.

This, we guess, means nothing will change, so we’re here again beating the same old drum, and we’ll never tire of the message:

We encourage parents and children to avoid a future of poor oral health by taking it into their own hands. The best way to do this is by ensuring you brush their teeth for two minutes last thing at night and at least one other time during the day with a fluoride toothpaste; cut down on how often you have sugary foods and drinks and visit your dental professional regularly.